GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 26, 2013

Why Did My Newspaper Do That?: Putting Gloucester and Cape Ann before the world

Why Did My Newspaper Do That?
Ray Lamont

---- — When readers first noted our Page 1 Tuesday headline — “Keeping ideals alive” — many may well have thought that it referred to President Obama’s second inauguration and parade, which had occurred the day before.

Any inaugural, after all, always looms as an historic event. And, yes, we had featured the president’s first inauguration as a lead story and front-page centerpiece when he was sworn in for his first term — and as our first-ever African-American president — in January 2009.

But while we certainly included coverage of this year’s inauguration, and while it obviously dominated TV newscasts and even our own Associated Press video feed on gloucestertimes.com, our story in the next day’s Times appeared on Page 7 – just as Friday’s coverage of another landmark Massachusetts story, the Secretary of State confirmation hearings for Sen. John Kerry, appeared on Page 5.

Now, wouldn’t a presidential inauguration be front-page news? Why, you might ask, would we cover these events the way we did? Why, in other words, would your community’s newspaper do that?

Because we are, first and very much foremost, a community newspaper, devoted to bringing you the news of our home city of Gloucester and towns here on Cape Ann. And while we certainly recognize the importance of events such as the inauguration of a president — and the pending confirmation of one of our own senior U.S. senator — we also suspect that, when you look to us for coverage, it is indeed coverage of our home communities and the kind of day-to-day local news, sports, arts, entertainment and other information that you won’t get from the major TV networks or elsewhere.

To that end, our Page 1 centerpiece package headlined “Keeping ideals alive” focused not on the inaugural, but on the ideals of peace and activism touted by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose life and words were the subject of a truly grass roots tribute in Rockport the day before, on the annual holiday marking the slain civil rights leader’s birthday.

Other Page 1 stories noted a tentative Gloucester street parking ban — for a snowstorm, it turned out, that mercifully never came — word that the state has created a new fund that could help the city repair its Stacy Boulevard seawall, and a story about a Manchester man who has donated well over $1 million to nonprofit groups, including a recent gift of $100,000 to Wellspring House.

Do those stories deserve Page 1 attention ahead of the inauguration?

Actually, they do, in my book. That’s because, while readers and viewers had all sorts of choices to get inauguration coverage the day and night before through TV networks, the 24-hour news channels and global online news sites, our Tuesday morning Page 1 stories were indeed all new. And in tune with our community duties, all provided a look at news items that specifically affected Gloucester and Cape Ann, including a centerpiece story with photos that offered a look inside the commitment and spirit of our Cape Ann people through the coverage of Rockport’s 25th Martin Luther King tribute march.

When I was managing editor of a newspaper called the Daily Local News in suburban Philadelphia, our front page also featured an all-local news package, with world and national news inside. And our masthead at the top of Page 1 included a little tag line beneath the paper’s nameplate proclaiming that “We put Chester County before the world.”

Our Gloucester Times masthead doesn’t quite go that far. But when it comes to news coverage, there’s no question as to which comes first.

As always, let me know what you think.

Questions? Comments? Do you have a topic you’d like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, x3438, or at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.